To Peregrine Fitzhugh from Thomas Jefferson
23 February 1798
Historical Background for this letter
This letter is written from Jefferson to Fitzhugh in response to Fitzhugh’s letter of 15 October 1797 (see Fitzhugh to Jefferson Letter 8 for more details). You will notice that Jefferson’s style in this letter is very flowery language and circumspect as was the style in those days. Col. Fitzhugh still lives in Ann Arundel, Maryland, and resided there until he moved to Geneva, N.Y., in 1799. This letter is written when John Adams was in his second year of his presidency as the second president of the United States. In Europe, war is waging between France and Britain and there is diminishing concern that we may declare war against France. Fitzhugh’s father, Col. William Fitzhugh, has died 11 Feb. 1798, just 12 days before this letter is written.
The first part of the letter is all politics. Here Jefferson laments that is enemys smear his reputation by misrepresenting what he says and has written. He talks about the war in Europe and that France may invade Europe and speculates on how that might change the English government. The concern that the United States might enter the war against France seems to be diminishing. He also talks about the role of the state and federal governments and how our constitution is the envy of the world.
He ends the letter by expressing his tibute to Fitzhugh’s father with these words “permit me to place here the tribute of my regrets for the affecting loss lately sustained within your walls, and to add that of the esteem & respect with which I am Dear Sir”.
As an historical note, the bibliography section in the Jefferson Archives of this letter contains this notation: A letter from Fitzhugh to TJ of 28 Mch., recorded in SJL as received 12 Apr. 1798, has not been found. This proves that there is at least one (and probably more) additional letters that have been lost.
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